- Talk (216)
“Numbers” redirects here. For the episode, see Numbers (episode).
The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 frequently recurred in Lost. Each corresponded with one of the final candidates to replace Jacob as protector of the Island. The numbers also formed the coefficients in an equation that predicted mankind’s extinction.
- 1 History
- 2 Other occurrences
- 2.1 All at once
- 2.1.1 Danielle’s papers
- 2.2 Combinations
- 2.3 Single numbers
- 2.4 The Lost Experience
- 2.1 All at once
- 3 Production notes
- 4 Apophenia in arithmetic
- 4.1 Occurrences outside of the show
- 4.2 Outside media references
- 4.3 Natural occurrences
- 4.4 Miscellaneous real world occurrences
- 5 Unanswered questions
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 7.1 References
Jacob and his brother, the Man in Black, lived on the Island for over two thousand years. During this time, the two engaged in a rivalry over the nature of humanity. Jacob brought people to the Island in order to test them and prove his view right. However, when it became clear that his brother planned to kill him, Jacob had a new reason to summon castaways; to protect the Heart of the Island after his death and to kill the Man in Black. (” Across the Sea “) (” Ab Aeterno “) (” What They Died For “)
Before drawing them, Jacob observed these candidates using a lighthouse. The lighthouse’s mirrors displayed a different candidate’s life with each degree that its dial turned. The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 corresponded with what turned out to be the final six candidates: (” The Substitute “) (” Lighthouse “) (” What They Died For “)
|The numbers printed on the the Swan’s Hatch.|
Though the Numbers, as Damon Lindelof put it, “were around LONG before the early ’60s,”  mathematician Enzo Valenzetti used them in the 1960s in a mathematical equation. This “Valenzetti Equation” aimed to predict the end of humanity, and the numbers formed its coefficients. The DHARMA Initiative, a scientific venture, conducted research to change one of these coefficients, extending the species’ lifespan. (The Lost Experience)
The sequence of numbers formed the serial number of a hatch for a station the Initiative built. When they finished the station, they used the numbers as required input for the station computer protocol. (” Dead Is Dead “) (” Man of Science, Man of Faith “)
The Initiative broadcast the numbers from a radio tower on the Island. Thanks to the Island’s unusual time flow, Ajira 316’s cockpit picked up this signal in 2007, years after it had stopped transmitting, but while the broadcast continued in 1988, it reached the French Bésixdouze expedition, leading them to the island. (” Namaste “) (” Numbers “)
|Hurley’s winning lotto ticket.|
Two U.S. Naval personnel, Sam Toomey and Leonard Simms also heard the transmission. Toomey used the numbers to win a contest, and a string of bad luck followed. He eventually killed himself. Simms ended up in a mental institute, repeating the sequence continually and saying nothing else. Another patient, one of the candidates the numbers represented, heard the sequence from Simms, and he, like Sam, used them to win the lottery. Bad luck ensued, and the man, Hugo Reyes, concluded that the numbers were cursed. (” Numbers “)
A search for the numbers’ meaning led Hurley to Australia, and then to the Island. He eventually learned he was a candidate, and ended up serving as Protector of the Island for years. (” Numbers “) (” Lighthouse “) (” The New Man in Charge “)
In the alternate reality episode Everybody Loves Hugo, Hurley won at the lottery with different numbers: 10 28 44 53 77 80.
|Girls of a soccer team seen in the foreground of one of Hurley’s airport flashbacks are wearing jerseys with the Numbers on them|
All at once
- On the medicine that Desmond injects into his arm. (” Man of Science, Man of Faith “) , (” Orientation “)
- On the vial that Claire was injected with in the Medical Station. (” Maternity Leave “)
- When Hurley’s car broke down they showed the speedometer (in km/h) go from 16 to 15 to 8 to 4. The dashboard also displayed a temperature of 23 degrees Celsius and 42 km on the odometer. (” Exodus, Part 2 “)
- When Hurley rides past 6 players of a girls’ soccer team in the airport, each uniform has one of the Numbers. (” Exodus, Part 2 “)
- LAPD police car numbers. (” Two for the Road “)
|The numbers appear on the odometer of Hurley’s Camaro.|
- The mileage on Hurley’s fixed up Camaro displays the numbers, leading to Hurley’s running away from his birthday party. (” There’s No Place Like Home, Part 1 “)
- Eko’s stick has the numbers etched on it.
- Kate’s trial number is 4815162342 (” Eggtown “)
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
4 8 15 16 23 42
|Numbers written by Danielle.|
8 is 8th number counting in standard reading format; that is, starting at the top, reading a line left-to-right, then moving to the next line beneath. 15 is 15th, 16 is 16th, 23 is 23rd and 42 is 42nd. If the 4 was a 1 or 7 this would work with all the Numbers.
Danielle’s numbers map has exactly the same columns and rows (rotated 90°) as a Connect Four board, which was used by Lenny while being questioned by Hurley in the episode ‘Numbers’.
- The crashed plane’s flight number is “815”. (” Pilot, Part 1 “)
- Faraday tells Desmond that his device’s settings are “2.342”. (” The Constant “)
- When Widmore gives Locke his passport, the birthdate reads 15 February 48. Widmore then tells Locke if there is anything he needs, dial 23. (” The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham “)
Please see their respective articles:
The Lost Experience
- In the early introduction of Sublymonal.com, 6 blank television screens were seen rotating. They had to be clicked 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 times, respectively, to get a clue.
- One of Rachel Blake’s Copenhagen post clues points us to 43 Things, where the words to goals #4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 were the only entries that contained just one word. Together, these words: “truth safe reckon copenhagen alvar sumo” formed a secret code that needed to be entered in as a string at Sublymonal.com.
- In a Thehansofoundation.org hack, a computer at the Vik Institute displaying the hieroglyphs was shown. After sequence #4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, each step gave a part of the clue, which ended up solving the DHARMA acronym.
In a Lostpedia interview, David Fury (one of the Season 1 writers and co-executive producers) talked about how the Numbers were developed: “When I started writing the episode (Numbers), I already figured to use numbers that had been heard on the show… 4 (number of years Locke was in wheelchair); 8, 15 (Flight 815), etc.” He also confirmed that the number 42 is a homage to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that the original idea to include a set of Numbers which would be important was J.J. Abrams.
The original interview does not address 23. (Jack and Rose sat in Row 23 (” Pilot, Part 1 “) . The reward for Kate was $23,000. “Exodus” Hurley to Kate: “Does 23 mean something to you?”)
Damon Lindelof did make a comment at Comic Con in 2005 that “We may never know what the Numbers mean.” He quickly regretted this, as he got tons of unhappy fan mail demanding to know what he meant exactly. In the 02/13/06 podcast, Carlton Cuse tries to explain what Damon meant.
In a May, 2008 interview with Kristin Dos Santos, Damon Lindelof furthered his statements: 
There are some questions that are very engaging and interesting, and then there are other questions that we have no interest whatsoever in answering. We call it the midi-chlorian debate, because at a certain point, explaining something mystical demystifies it. To try and have a character come and say, “Here is what the numbers mean,” actually makes every usage of the numbers up to that point less interesting.
You can actually watch Star Wars now, and when Obi-Wan talks about the Force to Luke for the first time, it loses its luster because the Force has been explained as, sort of, little biological agents that are in your blood stream. So you go, “Oh, I liked Obi-Wan’s version a lot better.” Which in the case of our show is, “The numbers are bad luck, they keep popping up in Hurley’s life, they appear on the island.” . But if you’re watching the show for a detailed explanation of what the numbers mean—and I’m not saying you won’t see more of them—then you will be disappointed by the end of season six.
In a 2009 interview with E!, Damon again commented on the Numbers: 
Here’s the story with numbers. The Hanso Foundation that started the DHARMA Initiative hired this guy Valenzetti to basically work on this equation to determine what was the probability of the world ending in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Valenzetti basically deduced that it was 100 percent within the next 27 years, so the Hanso Foundation started the Dharma Initiative in an effort to try to change the variables in the equation so that mankind wouldn’t wipe it itself out.
Apophenia in arithmetic
If you start adding and subtracting the Numbers you can make up almost any theory that you want. For example;
- Boone’s accident is in episode 19 (42−23)
- Boone dies in the 20th episode (16+4); Claire’s baby is born in the same episode
- In ” The Variable “, Daniel said that the metronome counted 864 (108×8).
- 1974 (1+9+7+4=21=42÷2)
- There were 324 (108×3) people on Oceanic flight 815.
- in ” Pilot, Part 2 “, the voice said “Iteration 7294531”. (7+2+9+4+5+3+1=31=23+8)
- LOST Final Episode Count Coincidence:
- LOST has a total of 121 episodes. 1 + 2 + 1 = 4, a number.
- If you count the Missing Pieces to this (121 + 13) = 134 (1 + 3 + 4) then you get 8, another number.
In fact any positive natural number can be constructed as follows: n = (16 – 15) x n. Which simply requires n additions and as many subtractions. Since zero can also be created by subtracting any of the numbers from itself, all the natural numbers can be created. Since there exists a bijection between the rational and the natural numbers, this means that any rational number can be constructed using only the numbers 15 and 16 in an integer relation.
This is why using arithmetic in deciding if a number counts as a reference is a somewhat pointless exercise, with two notable exceptions;
- 108 (the sum of the Numbers; referenced above in detail)
- 7418880 (the product of the Numbers, which appeared on the computer screen at the listening station before the discharge).
Here, the arithmetic is straightforward, and therefore can be construed as intentional, and beyond coincidence. This follows a general rule laid out by Occam’s razor of avoiding needless complexity in order to force connections which do not really exist.
Occurrences outside of the show
At the time the Numbers were first prominently featured in the episode Numbers, [The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences] did not have any integer sequences which included the Numbers.  Two days after the episode aired, the numbers (along with 108) were added to the encyclopedia as “The Lost Numbers”.  Because of this it is highly unlikely that the Numbers have any real-world mathematical or scientific significance. Since then, however, two more sequences have been added which include the Numbers, A122115 and A130826
At least some of the Numbers are well known as special numbers before the show:
- 4 is considered to be an unlucky number in Korea. Its pronunciation is the same as the pronunciation for the Chinese character for “death”. In the past, elevators were marked with an “F” button instead of “4”.
- 4, 8, 16 are binary numbers with only one “1” (and are thus powers of two).
- The numbers are very similar to the common bit-depths of color on VGA and SVGA (and later) graphics cards for PCs, for example 4-bit (16 color), 8-bit (256 color), 15-bit (32k hi-color), 16-bit (64k hi-color), and then the sequence deviates slightly with 24-bit = 16.7 million color TrueColor, and 32-bit for 24-bit true color with an 8-bit alpha channel. This generates the sequence 4 8 15 16 24 32, only the digits “4” and “3” near the end being swapped. Other common bit depths have existed for different types of displays such as Amiga, but these are the most common on the PC.
- 08/15 is a German saying for “ordinary” or “boring”, also used as a placeholder on demonstration objects.
- 08/15 was the model number of the German standard machine gun during World War I.
- The Hiroshima Bomb was detonated at 8:15 a.m. (JST).
- 8/15 is Independence Day in Korea. South Korea even has a national soft drink called “815 Soda,” or “Pal Il Oh Cola” as it is better known locally.
- 8/15 is also Independence Day in India. “Namaste” is a greeting word in Hindi, an official language of India.
- 23 is in several conspiracy theories the number of the “Illuminati”. It is claimed to appear all over history.
- 23 is the only prime number in the sequence.
- In the famous science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
- David Fury has stated that this was the inspiration for selecting 42 as the last number.
- Fox Mulder from X-Files (1993-2002) has one of them as an apartment number and 23 and 42 appear throughout the show. This was one of the most influential science fiction series prior to Lost, and had influence on a number of writers within the genre (and the show, in turn, was influenced by the Illuminati and Hitchhiker’s).
- All the Numbers are retired Yankees jersey numbers. (While jersey 42 was not retired specifically by the Yankees, 42 was retired across the league on April 15, 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson.) The other numbers: 4 – Lou Gehrig, 8 – Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, 15 – Thurman Munson, 16 – Whitey Ford, 23 – Don Mattingly. Of special note is Munson, who died in a plane crash. And despite the baseball-wide retirement of 42 for Robinson, the Yankees’ star closing pitcher, Mariano Rivera, continues to wear 42 under a grandfather clause because he was using it before 1997. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are both baseball fans, from their comments in the Official Lost Podcasts.
- Ten other numbers have also been retired by the Yankees.
- Mariano Rivera’s 42 will most likely be retired by the Yankees as well.
- The computer version of The Impossible Quiz shows the numbers plus 108 in Question 108 as a spin-off. It also appears in Question 50 on both the computer and the iOS version.
Outside media references
A reference to some of the Numbers is often made in other shows, movies, or pop culture that post-dated Lost, very frequently a tribute to the show:
"Numbers" redirects here. For the episode, see Numbers (episode). The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 frequently recurred in Lost. Each corresponded with one of the final candidates to replace Jacob as protector of the Island. The numbers also formed the coefficients in an equation that…